Author's Notes: I can honestly say that I don't have any idea where this story came from. The idea just popped into my head one day and badgered me incessantly until I gave in. From there, it pretty much wrote itself. This is probably the strangest thing I've ever written, but hopefully you will enjoy it regardless. (Now completely spell-checked.)
When Ginny caught herself looking at Hermione for the third time that morning, she began wondering if something was wrong—either with Hermione or herself. It wasn't the sort of looking that constituted a knowing glance, because the second member of the would-be party never once glanced up to meet her eyes. And it wasn't the sort of looking used conspiringly, either, where everyone knew something that someone didn't; Ginny was sure that the remainder of her family and Harry were concentrating upon their breakfasts. And after all, it was more likely that Hermione knew something they didn't—perhaps many somethings—instead of the other way around.
Perplexed, she glanced at Hermione a fourth time, though it was less discreetly than she had hoped, for Hermione looked up at her, smiled, then resumed her nutritious consumption. As she did so, her brown, unkempt hair was caught in a patch of sunlight which was streaming through the opened window. Ginny watched as several strands turned gold in the sudden shift in light, playing off the tone of her skin.
Somewhere, someone coughed, startling her out of her reverie. She blinked, surprised to find George staring at her. Fred elbowed her gently in the ribs.
"What?" she asked, taking on a cross tone to disguise the fact that she had just been caught unawares.
The twins raised their eyebrows simultaneously on either side of her.
"You were giving Hermione quite a stare there," whispered Fred.
"Making Ronniekins jealous, as it were," George added, nodding toward Ron, who seemed not to have noticed anything at all.
"What do you mean?" she hissed.
"You were eyeing his girlfriend like a bar of Honeydukes's finest," stated the first twin. Then his eyes filled with a reminiscing look. "Fourteen inch, dark chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, and macadamia—"
"The point is," George interrupted, "that you were inexplicably staring at poor, defenseless Hermione Granger—"
"—And we'd like to know what brought it on," Fred finished, having concluded his description of his most preferred sweet.
"What brought it—er…" She looked at their identical faces blankly until she was struck by a farcical explanation. "She had the most peculiar-looking spider about to crawl onto her elbow." She squinted across the table. "I reckon it's fallen onto the floor by now. Hopefully Ron'll find it."
Fred nodded appreciatively. "Truly our sister at heart. There's hope for the Weasley clan yet!" He clutched at his chest in a mock-swoon.
"Fred, stop badgering Ginny," Mrs. Weasley admonished wearily. He opened his mouth to protest, but was silenced by a look. "Clear your dishes, we're going into town."
Ginny pushed her chair backward and made to stand.
"Oh, not you, dear," her mother told her quickly. "Just the boys. I need you and Hermione to do some tidying up while we're gone. Bill and Fleur will be coming by soon with Gabrielle, and we're expecting Remus and Tonks round four-thirty tonight."
"What's the occasion, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry asked.
"I thought it might be nice to have a bit of company for dinner, is all," she said kindly. "And everyone is eager to see you again, Harry, especially Gabrielle." Her plump cheeks turned upward in a smile.
"What about us?" asked Fred eagerly. "Don't they want to see us, too?"
"I think they saw enough of you the last time they were here," Ron chortled through his bacon. Fred shot him a glare, though when Ron had turned away, he grinned at George.
"I expect so," Mum Weasley agreed. "Now come along, you four, it's time we got going."
There was a great scraping sound as the quartet of boys stood and began to gather their plates and utensils from the table. Fred and George managed to banish theirs into the sink without any of the usual mishaps, though Harry and Ron decided against using magic and instead opted for carrying them. When both pairs had left the room and could be heard heading up the stairs, Molly Weasley turned to Ginny and Hermione, who had not moved.
"Just pick up a few socks here and there," she instructed them in a whisper, as though it was of the utmost importance that only they be the ones to hear her. "I just want it to seem a bit more presentable. With Fleur, I always worry…"
"We'll take care of it, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione promised earnestly.
Ginny felt something swell in her chest as this was said. It was a peculiar feeling, though not completely foreign; all the same, it helped her determine that she was not well at all.
"Mum, is it okay if I don't start right away? I think I'm feeling a bit peaky."
"Is it your head, Ginny dear?" her mother inquired with concern. "I could fetch you some tonic…"
"Er, no, thanks Mum," she hastily replied. "I expect I just need a bit of air."
Her legs felt shaky as she rose to her feet and proceeded to the door that would take her away from the table and out of the Burrow.
Outside, the air was comfortably warm, just as it always was during the late-June mornings. There was also a slight breeze, whose subtle gusts felt refreshing as they caressed her face and wove through her hair. The sun was still crawling to the tops of the hills which surrounded her, and the sky was but an enormous expanse of blue. Ginny thought that it was the quintessence of perfection. Nothing out there was befuddling; rather, everything easily clicked into its proper place without wondering on her part.
She swayed her hips as she slid her bare feet along the grass, moving in an awkward dance across the lawn. It hadn't turned brown yet, the lawn, though the tips of the blades of grass had begun to look a bit faded. Perhaps she could convince someone to enchant them again. Evergreen grass, she mused, feeling herself twirl. It shouldn't be too hard, considering everyone but me is allowed to use magic.
She made a mental note to ask Bill about it when he arrived, then flopped down onto a bench in the garden. Her arm dangled lazily over the side with her fingers gently brushing the ground. This is definitely better than tonic, she decided, and gazed up at the sky.
For the second time that hour, Ginny found herself startled from a stare. She shaded her eyes with her hand and sat up.
"Oh, Hermione!" she exclaimed. The brunette had changed out of her pajamas and into a light blue sundress. Its hem fluttered around her knees and her hair, now brushed, had the same golden sheen she had glimpsed during breakfast.
Why did the sunshine now feel much too warm?
"I think you got a bit sunburned," Hermione said.
"What?" Ginny squeaked.
"Your face is quite red already."
Horrified, she pressed her palm to her cheek, only to discover it uncomfortably hot to the touch. Even as her hand rested there, the heat slowly began to increase.
"I must be really ill," she muttered beneath her breath. And it certainly must have been true, because everything had been fine until Hermione's unanticipated arrival.
"Are you okay?" Hermione furrowed her brow and placed the back of her hand against Ginny's forehead. Ginny instantaneously recoiled, and Hermione looked taken aback.
"I reckon I'll be alright," the red-haired girl said, forcing a smile that she knew did not reach the corners of her lips. Hermione's hand had felt so wonderfully cool upon her, so marvelously… marvelous, as if she was being struck by lightning, cooled with ice, and warmed by summer rain all at once. If she wasn't ill, she could not even put forth a guess as to what she really was. Because she had felt that feeling once before: when Harry had kissed her for the very first time. She was not supposed to feel like that with one brush against her skin, especially from a girl… especially from Hermione Granger.
"Oh, it's no use," she sighed into her hands. "There's really something wrong with me."
She felt Hermione slide onto the bench beside her and place her hands upon Ginny's shoulder, which was soon followed by the other feeling. Hermione had no idea what she was doing to her!
"Is it Harry?" the brunette inquired, her tone sympathetic. Of course she would think Harry to be the cause of her troubles. Of course she would assume that Harry was the one sending her mind reeling in confusion. And so of course it was Harry that Ginny was going to blame aloud to Hermione.
"Oh, Ginny, you know he'll come round," Hermione told her strongly. "After all, Ron eventually saw sense, and you know how thick he can be at times." She laughed slightly, and Ginny's stomach gave a lurch.
"I suppose so."
She wondered if this—this whatever it was—had been slowly building up since last year without her noticing. Or what if it had all begun sooner? Perhaps she had always… No, not always; that was impossible. There was no denying that, seemingly up until now, she had been completely and inescapably in love with Harry Potter.
That was it, then, wasn't it? Harry truly was the cause of all this. She must have simply been so heartbroken, so tired of waiting when their chances were so slim, that she had begun to feel an attraction to the next-best person. At least this was slightly logical, she reflected. Harry and Hermione spent the most time near her, whether it was at the Burrow or elsewhere. Ron as well, but she couldn't count him; they were family, stuck around each other by default. So of course that would leave his two best friends, and of course she would feel close to them…
Even though there was at least some sense to it, that did not suffice to comfort her. Then Ginny was struck by another thought. What if it was simply an attraction, one with no true feelings laced together with it? That was understandable. Malfoy was attractive, but the only feelings she had ever felt for him were those of loathing.
"Hermione," she began suddenly. "What d'you reckon is the difference between lust and love?" She peered at Hermione, who was noticeably startled at her query.
Her fellow Gryffindor thought for a moment, during which time the younger of the two stole a hasty glance at her hair. "Well… not in familial terms… I suppose that you feel love for someone that you could spend the rest of your life with. They aren't necessarily attractive, though perhaps they're attractive to you, the person, and you're attractive to them. But lust…" Here she paused. "Lust, I believe, is more short-term. You feel it for someone that you're not terribly serious about. You might believe it's love, but really, you're so strongly attracted to the person that you can't tell. It's more superficial, based upon appearances more than heart or mind. I suppose sometimes lust turns to love, but love is so much more difficult to understand."
"But, is lust always straightforward?" Ginny asked, hoping that it wasn't. From the definitions she had just been given, she still could not distinguish what it was she felt for her brother's best friend. One of them, at least.
Hermione shrugged. "I imagine so, but I couldn't say for certain. I haven't had… that much experience with it." She looked uncomfortable.
"Well, what if you felt lust toward someone you shouldn't? That wouldn't be quite so straightforward."
Hermione sighed at Ginny's eager expression. "It's difficult to say, but under those circumstances, my best guess is yes. But Ginny, is there a particular person that you're thinking of…?"
"No, no," she cut in hastily. "It's, uh, hypothetical."
"If you're sure." She didn't look as though she believed her. "I mean…" She toyed with the hem of her dress. "You can always tell me if it isn't. I want you to know that I'm here to talk to you if you'd like."
Suddenly, Ginny felt like she was a coward, even if she was an almost justifiable one. She was supposed to say the things that she felt; she had always done so with little hindrance in the past. Now should not differ at all, in spite of the circumstances. She was a Gryffindor, wasn't she? And Hermione would understand, wouldn't she? She closed her eyes and deeply inhaled, slowly releasing her breath after a strength-gathering moment.
"Actually, it isn't hypothetical at all," she said with a slight quaver in her voice. "There is someone, and I'm bloody confused about them because I know that it isn't normal!"
"Who?" Hermione said coaxingly, her voice soothing. She rubbed Ginny's back gently in minute circles with her fingertips.
She sniffed. "It's you."
The circles ceased. "Oh… Oh, that's—oh." She fell into a flabbergasted silence, her eyes growing wide.
The younger girl felt her skin begin to burn once more. "I-I don't know why or how," she continued, just above a whisper. "But this morning at breakfast, I couldn't stop staring at you. Even Fred and George noticed. And then I just…" She shrugged helplessly. "I dunno, I just felt something." She glanced at Hermione, who seemed to be speechless still. "You don't have to say anything; I just thought that maybe if I told you, I would stop feeling like that. You know, like when you feel a bit peaky and then tell someone, it all sort of goes away." She bit her lip. "Er, I suppose I had better go inside, then. Mum will want those socks picked up."
As she stood and prepared to turn down the path which had brought her there, she felt Hermione grasp her wrist.
"Well, this is admittedly a bit awkward," Hermione said with a slight smile, "but I'm glad that you told me."
"Thanks for listening."
"And do you, er, still not know which it is? Lust or love—or fondness, at least—I mean?" She was twirling her dress's hem around her forefinger.
Ginny didn't know. She shook her head. "I'm not sure how to tell."
"Well, you could, er, I suppose…" Her cheeks had begun to bloom with a hint of red, much more gracefully than Ginny was certain that hers had done. The latter raised her eyebrows.
"Hermione," she said slowly, "you don't mean…"
"What harm can a little kiss do?" the brunette asked resolutely. "If it's going to help to clear things up for you…"
Ginny dropped into place beside her on the bench, looking at her shyly through ginger lashes. "This won't change our friendship, right?"
"Of course it won't." There was a tremor in her tone now, as though the two brazen Gryffindor girls had suddenly been struck by the same case of nerves.
Tentatively, Ginny placed her hand atop Hermione's and leaned forward ever so slightly. "Er, could you close your eyes?" She self-consciously tucked a strand of hair behind her ears as Hermione complied with her request. Then she, too, shut her eyes and gently closed the gap between their lips.
Her first thought was that Hermione tasted like cinnamon, and it made her heart flutter and lurch. With the taste was brought a multitude of feelings; she could associate most of them with the wintry months she had witnessed in her childhood, where she was enveloped by the warmth a blanket could provide while snow softly fell just beyond the windowpane. Hermione made her comfortable, as if all their unease could evaporate with a single action. And then there was satisfaction.
Ginny knew that she was supposed to pull away. It was meant to be a quick kiss, one of significance but no meaning, a determining factor, an experiment. She wasn't supposed to enjoy the soft pressure of her friend's lips upon her own, forming indecipherable words. They had both expected it to be the absolute opposite of what they were now experiencing.
Just as Ginny began to feel Hermione's hand creep toward her shirt, the latter suddenly pulled away, looking aghast.
"Ginny," she began with a slight pant, "I honestly don't know what that was!"
Ginny numbly agreed, her mouth tingling. "And it didn't help a bit," she admitted when at last she regained her voice.
"Bloody hell!" This was a new voice, strained with horror and revulsion. The pair looked up in shock, each letting forth a simultaneous gasp. Ron was there, frozen on the path, and it was as if his jaw had come unhinged and fallen to the ground.
"Y-you two!" he sputtered. The color was quickly draining from his already pale face. "What the hell… What the hell are you doing?!"
Ginny hastily removed her hand from Hermione's leg.
"Were you snogging?" he demanded. "H-Hermione, were you snogging my sister?" Then he rounded on Ginny accusingly. "And you! You were snogging my girlfriend!"
Hermione hung her head at the sight of Ron's clenched fists, and Ginny did something completely uncharacteristic that she caught even herself off guard at first. Hot tears welled up and surged over her cheeks, and she began to cry. Even Ron's anger faltered for a moment as he suddenly viewed her not as someone who had just been caught in a heinous act, but as his baby sister.
And then Ginny began to run, run as fast as she could with the air whipping through her hair and sending it into her eyes. She ran and she cried until tears and perspiration were undistinguishable from one another as they gleamed upon her skin. Now she really was a coward, wasn't she? She had left Hermione to Ron, to sort out yet another issue through the use of an argument that would likely make it one too many. Even though it really wasn't Hermione's fault; Ron would never see it as a friend helping another friend.
When she came to the woods that bordered the Weasley property, she paused only briefly before continuing on. Only when she encountered a small clearing in the trees did she finally stop. At last out of breath, she dropped to her knees, wheezing, then flopped down into a patch of morning glories.
Ginny smiled crookedly as she gazed at one of the small, white flowers; she traced the inner, amethyst lines with a lazy finger. The delicate petals were almost enough to make her forget why she was there in the first place. Almost, but not quite. At least her eyes had dried, and her skin was only sticky now from the excess sunshine.
"Beell, izzat not leetle Geenevra?"
"Là-bas, by ze flowerz."
"Gin, is that you?"
She was vaguely aware of voices somewhere near, though their familiarity did not sink into her until a shadow suddenly blocked the sun. As she squinted, the shadow began to take the shape of her eldest brother, Bill.
"Ginny, are you alright? Did something happen? He sounded concerned. Why would he sound concerned? Ah yes, she was lying on the ground. That had to be it.
"I'm fine," she muttered, pulling herself into a comfortable sitting position. From there, she found herself to also be in the company of Fleur and her sister, whose expressions mirrored Bill's. "Hello," she greeted in a tone that was not as merry as it ought to have been. Although, she did manage to pull a grin from her pocket when her eyes lighted upon her brother.
"What are you doing so far from the house, by yourself?" he asked, holding out his hand. She declined it, preferring to stay where she was.
Then she shrugged. "I felt like taking a walk."
"You could have at least taken Hermione with you. She's still here, isn't she?"
Ginny nodded, though not before a dark look crossed her face. "Yeah. But she opted to stay inside."
He looked at her quizzically. "You sure you're okay?"
"'Course I am."
He glanced at the surrounding wood. "Would you like to come back to the house with us, at least?"
She looked from Bill's expectant face to Fleur and Gabrielle's. "No, I think I'll stay right here."
The leader of the trio shrugged, and the two part-veelas swooped down to kiss the air beside her cheeks. "A bientôt!" Gabrielle cried ecstatically before she was hushed by her sister. With hands linked in a chain, they continued down the nonexistent path, leaving Ginny and her morning glories behind.
And Ginny lay there, not really doing or seeing anything as the minutes dragged on. That is, of course, until she heard footsteps—or what she assumed were footsteps, because it sounded merely like swishing through the brush. A moment later, her suspicions were confirmed.
It felt as though her heart had just run as fast as it could and leapt from a cliff. For there Hermione Granger stood.
"Hullo," Ginny replied. She heard the grass bend beside her as Hermione maneuvered her way onto the ground.
"I managed to patch things up with Ron," she said at length, hugging her knees to her chest. "He's promised not to tell anyone."
Ginny was thankful for this, and she relayed such to her friend, who smiled.
"You know, it's rather nice out here, but I think we should head back. Those socks won't pick up themselves without a bit of prompting on our part. I passed your brother on the way back here, by the way." The brunette rose to her feet and held out her hand; this time, the younger girl took it, but was surprised when she didn't let go.
Hermione kissed Ginny's cheek. "We'll figure everything out eventually," she promised. Then she tucked a morning glory behind Ginny's ear, securing it with a lock of golden red.